The Red Wheelbarrow
The Red Wheelbarrow is a poem written by William Carlos Williams. Often considered the masterwork of American 20th-century poetry, the 1923 poem exemplifies the Imagist-influenced philosophy of “no ideas but in things.” This provides another layer of meaning beneath the surface reading. The style of the poem forgoes traditional British stress patterns to create a typical “American” image.
The subject matter of The Red Wheelbarrow makes the poem distinctive and important. Williams lifts a brazier to an artistic level, exemplifying the importance of the ordinary; as Williams says, a poem “must be real, not 'realism', but reality itself." In this way, the poem holds more in common with the haiku of Bashō than with the verse of T. S. Eliot.[original research?]
Composition and publication 
The pictorial style in which the poem is written owes much to the photographs of Alfred Stieglitz and the precisionist style of Charles Sheeler, an American photographer-painter whom Williams met shortly before composing the poem. The poem represents an early stage in Williams' development as a poet. It focuses on the objective representation of an object, in line with the Imagist philosophy that was only ten years old at the time of the poem's publication. Williams' later works sacrifice some of this objective clarity in order to personalize the image for the reader. This is clearly illustrated in the poet's longest piece, Paterson, the first book of which was published in 1942. In this later work, Williams writes a prose-like monologue, which stands in stark contrast to the brief, haiku-like form of The Red Wheelbarrow.
With regard to the inspiration for the poem, Williams wrote:
[The Red Wheelbarrow] sprang from affection for an old Negro named Marshall. He had been a ﬁsherman, caught porgies off Gloucester. He used to tell me how he had to work in the hold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the ﬁsh. He said he didn’t feel cold. He never felt cold in his life until just recently. I liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his back yard I saw the red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens. I suppose my affection for the old man somehow got into the writing.
The Red Wheelbarrow was originally published in Williams' 1923 anthology of mixed poetry and prose titled Spring and All, and was simply titled "XXII", denoting the poem's place within the anthology. Referring to the poem as "The Red Wheelbarrow" has been frowned upon by some critics, including Neil Easterbrook, who said that such reference gives the text "a specifically different frame" than that which Williams originally intended. The poem is removed from its place in the anthology and thus takes on a different meaning.
- so much depends
- a red wheel
- glazed with rain
- beside the white
The poem has a distinct pattern, with alternating lines of two and one stressed syllables. The work seems to attempt to reach a specific combination of stresses, but purposely misses each time. In the table below, the desired combination would be represented as uMuS/Mu. This relates to Williams' basic doctrine that by examining an object in all of its immediacy, we can come into contact with something universal. There is a universal order to be found in the poem, but the individual lines never reach it. Rather, the particularity of each line gestures toward the underlying universal pattern.
|1||so much depends||MMuM||4|
|3||a red wheel||uM S||3|
|5||glazed with rain||MuS||3|
|7||beside the white||uMuS||4|
u: unstressed syllable
S: stressed syllable
M: medium stressed syllable
In popular culture 
The poem is recited in the 2010 Woody Allen film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger by Roy Channing (Josh Brolin) to Sally Channing (Naomi Watts). Like William Carlos Williams, Roy Channing is a physician turned writer.
During an episode of the Discovery Channel's show Brew Masters, Dogfish Head Brewing's founder, Sam Calagione, is shown driving a well-worn red pickup truck with the first two lines of the poem printed on the tailgate.
Notes and references 
- Gates, Rosemary L. (1987). "Forging an American Poetry from Speech Rhythms: Williams after Whitman". Poetics Today (Duke University Press) 8 (3/4): 503–527. doi:10.2307/1772565. ISSN 0333-5372. JSTOR 1772565.
- Hefferman, James A. W. (1991). "Ekphrasis and Representation". New Literary History 22 (2): 297–316. doi:10.2307/469040. JSTOR 469040.
- Cho, Hyun-Young (2003). "The Progression of William Carlos Williams’ Use of Imagery" (PDF). Writing for a Real World 4: 62–69.
- Quoted in Rizzo, Sergio (2005). "Remembering Race: Extra-poetical Contexts and the Racial Other in "The Red Wheelbarrow"". Journal of Modern Literature 29 (1): 35.
- Easterbrook, Neil (1994). ""Somehow Disturbed at the Core": Words and Things in William Carlos Williams". South Central Review 11 (3): 25–44. doi:10.2307/3190244. JSTOR 3190244.
- Gee, James Paul (1985). "The Structure of Perception in the Poetry of William Carlos Williams: A Stylistic Analysis". Poetics Today 6 (3): 375–397. doi:10.2307/1771902. JSTOR 1771902.
- adapted from Gee (1985). S represents strong stress on a syllable, M moderate stress, and u little or no stress.
- Schilling, Peter (October 7, 2010). "New Woody Allen among his best". Star Tribune. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- Green, John (2012). The Fault In Our Stars. New York: Dutton. p. 313. ISBN 978-0-525-47881-2.
- "Breitbart’s Last Laugh" by Matt Labash, The Weekly Standard, March 1, 2012, Retrieved 2012-03-16
- Critical Essays on "The Red Wheelbarrow"
- Haj Ross on the linguistics of the poem